Soft skills and upskilling managers and employees - PwC case study

By Carol Stubbings

This PwC case study shows how a radical rethink of work culture is needed if we are to meet the upskilling challenge.

Periods of disruption are known to catalyse advancements which, in turn, cause a widening of the already significant gap in skills.

This can be addressed by investing in leadership programmes for both managers and employees

In the following article, Carol Stubbings, global leader of people and organisation at PwC describes the threat that rapid advancement poses if upskilling is not prioritised.

Available key skills are lacking - where is the focus on upskilling and professional development?

From boardrooms to newsrooms, barely a day goes by without a mention of the skills gap. It’s therefore of little surprise that it was a key concern for business leaders worldwide in PwC’s annual CEO Survey, released in March 2020. 

The global mood is reflected in UK CEOs too, with 79% saying the lack of available key skills is a threat to their business, trumped only by cyber threats (80%). Despite this, just half of business leaders are actually focused on upskilling employees. The problem is set to worsen if we don’t adopt a radical new strategy to tackle it. 

Traditional training courses cannot meet the demands of a highly digital workplace 

While the skills challenge is multifaceted and complex, it’s not unique. We have already undergone societal upskilling shifts with the introduction of computers into the workplace, and we upskill every day as we learn how to use the latest apps.

Today’s exponential pace of change has not gone unnoticed by CEOs; three-quarters in the UK expressed concern about the speed of technological change, compared to only 59% in 2015. 

It suggests that businesses and workers are struggling to keep up with disruption. Traditional training strategies don’t cut it at a time of continuous change and automation. Add to that broader societal challenges, such as widening wealth inequality, an ageing population and a growing digital divide — and a fundamental rethink is needed of how we define an occupation. 

The first thing businesses must do is re-evaluate their business model and how they define a ‘job’, ‘occupation’ and ‘task’. By breaking down occupations into the sum of their parts, we start to understand which tasks require humans and which could be outsourced to machines. 

Upskilling re-imagined: Our greatest asset will become our emotional intelligence (EQ)

In passing the routine tasks to machines, businesses can provide a higher quality of work to their people, enhancing employee satisfaction and improving staff retention. As well as providing more fulfilling work, a task-based approach means that businesses are better able to measure exact skills gaps and to be more specific about the type of worker they need.

Interpersonal skills are as important as digital skills.

Skills in demand are by no means always digital ones. Human competencies such as empathy and the ability to build relationships have an even greater premium in a world of machines. But no one can afford to sit still; everyone has to improve their skills and add value as jobs change. Businesses are starting to understand this, but the broader societal shift from a focus on technical skills and rote learning to a focus on competencies will take time. 

Investing in continuous professional development needs to happen now

At PwC, we are on our own upskilling journey. In October, we committed US$3bn over the next four years to upskilling our people, as well as supporting our clients and wider society, through our ‘New World. New Skills’ initiative. Working alongside governments and other organisations around the world is the only way businesses will engender systemic change and ensure people don’t get left behind by technology. 

The upskilling challenge is massive, though not unsolvable. However, it will require a radical rethink of ‘work’ as we know it.

Our levy-funded online mangement courses develop your junior and middle managers with an empowering approach to lifelong learning that will tangibly benefit your organisation from day one.

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